New F1 pitstop rules could hit a decisive Red Bull advantage - The Race
Formula 1

New F1 pitstop rules could hit a decisive Red Bull advantage

Jun 25 2021

A fresh FIA technical directive alters Formula 1’s pitstop rules and could hit a decisive Red Bull advantage.

From the Hungarian Grand Prix in a month’s time, teams may need to alter their procedures to ensure they comply with specific instructions – one being that the front jack release cannot begin until all wheelguns have signalled completion, and another that there must be at least 0.2s between the jack release and the green light being shown to the driver.

The suggestion is that the quickest pitstops in F1, which are sub-2s, are not possible without an element of pre-emption.

Existing rules state sensors must only be ‘passive’ parts of the process and the implication is some teams may be deriving an advantage from equipment that is more involved than that.

Action is being taken by the FIA in the name of safety to ensure that teams are not risking releasing cars without properly attached wheels.

Red Bull pitstop 2021

Red Bull’s pitstop advantage over Mercedes is based upon having invested more in new tech pitstop equipment at a time when its cars were not as fast as those of its rival.

For a long time, Red Bull has been the pitstop champion team and holds the official record at 1.82s (set at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix).

It has the six quickest pitstops in the 2021 season so far, three of which are under 2s (Bahrain 1.93s, Azerbaijan 1.98s and Portugal 1.98s).

Aston Martin (twice), Williams and Alfa Romeo are the other teams that feature in the 10 fastest pitstops of the season.

It means Red Bull is comfortably leading the 2021 pitstop competition run by F1 partner DHL, which awards points to the top 10 pitstops in each grand prix in the style of F1’s championship points system.

Red Bull heads that ‘championship’ by 99 points from Williams, with Mercedes only in third place, 104 points behind Red Bull.

Mercedes was investing everything in making its car faster and pitstop times of 1s slower weren’t going to lose it the world championship. Now that Red Bull has a car at least as quick as the Mercedes, they absolutely might.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes pitstop 2021

Last June a technical directive was issued in the pandemic-inspired drive to slash costs, whereby team’s hugely costly pitstop equipment (front jacks can cost up to £200,000, for example, a set of 24 wheelguns could come in at almost £250k) would be essentially homologated at the end of September 2020.

Whatever the teams had then is what they would be obliged to use for the remainder of 2020 and throughout this season. So Red Bull’s pit equipment advantage was baked in.

The ‘active’ elements of that equipment in sensing the car’s ride height, for example, shaves vital fractions of a second. These active elements have now effectively been banned.

It strikes at the very heart of a Red Bull advantage which it will feel has been legitimately gained from its own past investment.

And it will be interesting to see if its decisive pitstop advantage over Mercedes – which could well even decide the championship, so close are the cars – remains.

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